Car Choice: Welcome to Britain, home of Mondeo Man

Stuart Allison, from the United States, wants a reliable, fairly inexpensive car for about a year while he is working in the UK. In the US he runs Subarus, and over here he will have his wife and two daughters with him. Reliability, safety, and the ability to make weekend trips to places like the Lake District or Cornwall are all important. Stuart has up to £2,000 to spend and wants to know what things to watch for when buying a car in the UK.

A car for the head

Explaining what to look for when buying a car in the UK would comfortably take up most of this newspaper. However, perhaps the safest route would be to go to a car dealer and ensure that the warranty cover is comprehensive. This will mean reading the small print, but it will be worth it. I would also go for a car that is widely available, and therefore good value to buy, own and run. The Ford Mondeo would make an excellent, safe, and affordable family car for Stuart. There are some good engine options, starting with the 1.8 and 2.0 petrols – but the diesel engines are now responsive and reasonably refined, too. So if all you want is a spacious and economical family car the Mondeo is always going to be near the top of the list. And a Mondeo isn't just a cheap, practical and economical car, it's also a great drive. I found a 2004 with 95,000 miles on the clock from a car dealer at £2,000, so the cars are out there.

A car for the heart

A 4x4 is not essential despite the recent weather, providing Stuart has good tyres and drives within his limits and according to the conditions. I know he has been offered a Saab 9-5. I like Saabs a lot, and have owned several. There is lots of room inside a 9-5 for both front and rear passengers. As ever, Saab's seats are supremely comfortable. All that goes well with the very smooth ride, which refuses to be upset whatever the road conditions. The boot is large and there is plenty of room for a family of four. This large, comfortable car is also very capable in all other departments – from ride and handling to outright performance. Whereas previous Saabs looked big and safe, the new 9-5 is big, classy and safe, with the estate version being particularly handsome and useful. The things that Stuart will have to look out for are the electrics – which are always a problem – including the trip computer, which can cost a fortune to sort out. And automatic gearboxes can go at higher mileages, along with timing chains and steering racks.

Looking to buy?

Please write to Car Choice, Features, Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF or email James Ruppert at, giving your age, address and phone number, details of the type of vehicle in which you are interested, and your budget.